Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark
What is Banned Books Week?
Every autumn, libraries, book stores, and all those who love books come together to celebrate our Intellectual Freedom, our First Amendment Rights, and our Right to Read. In doing so, we celebrate books that have been challenged or banned. A book is challenged when someone files a complaint about a book, asking that it be removed from that particular school or library. Each school and library has a procedure in place for the challenge process. Sometimes, the book is removed; this is when a book is banned. Other times, the book is allowed to remain, but we still recognize that the book was challenged. The theme for Banned Books Week 2019 is "Censorship Leaves Us in the Dark. Keep the Light On."
What is censorship?
From the American Library Association: "Censorship is the suppression of ideas and information that certain persons — individuals, groups, or government officials — find objectionable or dangerous. It is no more complicated than someone saying, “Don’t let anyone read this book, or buy that magazine, or view that film, because I object to it!” Censors try to use the power of the state to impose their view of what is truthful and appropriate, or offensive and objectionable, on everyone else. Censors pressure public institutions, like libraries, to suppress and remove information they judge inappropriate or dangerous from public access, so that no one else has the chance to read or view the material and make up their own minds about it. The censor wants to prejudge materials for everyone." Read more here.
Why are books challenged? Does this happen often?
More than 12,000 books have been challenged since 1982 according to the American Library Association. There were 354 challenges reported to the Office of Intellectual Freedom in 2017, and as many as 97% of all challenges go unreported. Common reasons for challenging a book include: anti-family, profanity, cultural insensitivity, drugs/alcohol/smoking, gambling, offensive language, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group, violence, homosexuality, political viewpoint, nudity, suicide, occult/Satanism, religious viewpoint, etc.
The 11 most challenged titles of 2018:
So, what's the big deal? So what if I miss out on a few books?
For starters, it's about censorship. Banning books restricts our freedom to read. A society with access to books and information is critical to a functioning democracy. Look at how many classic books have been challenged or banned! Listen to what popular authors John Green (The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns) and Dav Pilkey (Captain Underpants) have to say on the subject.